Optimism Abounds for Young Ole Miss Secondary
Visitors from the Palmer Home for Children enjoyed Ole Miss practice with coach Hugh Freeze on Tuesday.
April 4, 2017

OXFORD, Miss. – On a beautiful Tuesday afternoon that featured warm sun and a cool spring breeze, a group of children from the Palmer Home’s Hernando campus were treated to a fast, competitive Ole Miss football practice. 

One of the things that stood out Tuesday and has all spring is the battle between the Rebels’ top-tier wide receivers and young but developing defensive backs.

College football fans around the country know about rising sophomore quarterback Shea Patterson and his crew of targets like A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, Van Jefferson, Markell Pack and DaMarkus Lodge.

Sophomore cornerbacks Myles Hartsfield and Jaylon Jones admit going against the group only makes the Rebel defense better.

“A.J. and D.K. they’re a handful to guard every day,” said Hartsfield, who has moved over to corner after starting all 12 games at Rover safety as a true freshman last year. “You have to come with the right mindset every day to guard those two. I feel like they’re two of the best wide receivers in the country.

“That dude, he’s a monster,” said Jones about Patterson. “On one-on-ones, competing with A.J. and them, some of the balls Shea does throw, I know not everybody can throw that. He’s making me better because I know not everybody’s throwing the balls he’s throwing – back shoulders, perfect fades.”

After a rough 2016 season for the defense, which featured a number of freshmen in the rotation like Hartsfield, Jones, safety Deontay Anderson and defensive tackle Benito Jones, the Rebels are practicing faster and with more confidence this spring.

“We have a better work ethic this year,” said Hartsfield. ‘We’re working harder than I felt like we worked last year. The secondary is young, but we’re just ready to work.”

The culmination of their work will be on display this Saturday at the Regions Bank Grove Bowl. Admission is free for the Rebels’ annual spring game, which kicks off at 11 a.m.

Both corners praised new defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff and his energetic approach to practice, simplifying the playbook and coaching more press coverage and “in-your-face” man techniques.

“Now we’re just playing instead of thinking,” Jones said. “We’re taking the film room more serious, and we’re playing a lot faster because we know what we’re doing.”

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